Raw fennel has a similar taste to anise, but don’t let that intimidate you. Fennel is a flavorful addition to salads, soups and savory dishes, and just happens to be a good source of vitamin C. Cooking fennel slowly in olive oil or butter, mellows and sweetens the flavor. Smooth and silky, you’ll find this soup quite tasty. The process of sweating the vegetables or cooking until softened and the moisture is released, brings out the subtle flavors. Consider serving the soup in shot glasses, with a swirl of crème fraiche and a splash of olive oil.
Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, carrots, potato, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook. Stir the vegetables occasionally and reduce heat if needed. Cook the vegetables until they’re soft, but not browned and have released their moisture, about 30-45 minutes (this is called sweating the vegetables).
Add the broth, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper as needed. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are falling apart, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly and remove the herbs. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender, until smooth. Optional- strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve or strainer, for a smooth soup.
Mix creme fraiche and maple syrup in a small bowl. Serve soup topped with the maple crème fraiche and a drizzle of olive oil.